To the Editor:
How ironic that Naval Academy plebes once had to memorize Matthew Maury’s high-minded statement “When principle is involved, be deaf to expediency” (1).
Although I agree with my fellow Virginian’s sentiment, it should be remembered that Maury’s personal principles – or lack thereof – resulted in him leaving the US Navy at the Civil War’s outbreak, joining the rebel cause, and taking up arms against what remained of the United States. Wikipedia reports that, among his wartime services, Maury perfected an “electric torpedo” that cost more Union vessels than all other causes combined.
Maury accomplished much that is worthy of respect, but his disregard for his Constitutional oath makes him a perilous exemplar of principled behavior.
(1) "When Principle Is Involved" by Harlan Ullman, US Naval Institute Proceedings. Feb. 2008, page 8.